- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Rutgers’ defense isn’t worried despite a lackluster start to the season.

A week after giving up a school record 532 passing yards to Washington State, the Scarlet Knights (2-0) gave up 269 rushing yards to FCS foe Howard.

Rutgers was much more successful stopping the run last year, ranking fourth, though its defense gave up a school record 4,056 passing yards. Rutgers has finished in the top 15 against the run three out of the last five years.

“Playing down to your opponent. Definitely, 100 percent,” safety Jonathan Aiken said of what went wrong against Howard. “We sit back, we watch film, ‘Why do we make those mistakes?’ That’s what coach is saying. He can ask a person a question and he knows the exact answer.”

But Aiken says the team’s focus quickly shifted forward to its next game.

That’s because this week is Penn State (2-0). It’s the Scarlet Knights’ Big Ten opener in its inaugural season against its neighbor to the west on Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium.

Now that the Scarlet Knights have officially turned their attention to the Nittany Lions, they feel only minor fixes need to be made to make major improvements.

“I believe that this team will prepare better. We’ll practice better this week,” linebacker Kevin Snyder said. “We’re learning slowly but surely with a young team how to prepare better, how to prepare for a game of this magnitude, so I believe we’ll take that next step and we’ll be better this week.”

If not, at least the Scarlet Knights have showed they can win shootouts, scoring 38 points in each of their first two games. However, quarterback Gary Nova has enough confidence in his defense to prevent him from thinking he’ll need to regularly put up a lot of points.

“I got all the confidence in our defense and no matter how many points we need to score, I feel like we can do that,” Nova said. “But we’re not going into games thinking we’ll need 50 to win or anything like that.”

They’ll have to if the defense doesn’t improve from the first two games.

Penn State has struggled to establish a ground game, rushing for 163 yards overall. However, Christian Hackenberg has thrown for 773 yards.

Heading into this week, the question for Rutgers remains whether the little tweaks on defense make a difference.

“You never want to see numbers like that,” defensive lineman Julian Pinnix-Odrick said. “But I think that it’s a wakeup call and that’s how life works. You’re going to keep getting them until you fix it and we’ll fix it.”

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